What is a Activity Cost Driver? Definition Meaning Example

Presumably, you can set the machinery to one setting to obtain the desired product quality and taste. Although both of you produce the same total volume of ice cream, it is not hard to imagine that your friend’s overhead costs would be considerably higher. An Activity Cost Driver is a factor that influences or contributes to the cost of a particular business activity. In activity-based costing (ABC), cost drivers are used to allocate the costs of various activities to products or services. They help to establish a more accurate relationship between the resources consumed and the cost of a specific activity. By identifying cost drivers, businesses can better understand the drivers of their costs and make more informed decisions about resource allocation, pricing, and process improvements.

It can accommodate the complexity of real-world operations by incorporating time equations, a new feature that enables the model to reflect how order and activity characteristics cause processing times to vary. Time equations greatly simplify the estimating process and produce a far more accurate cost model than would be possible using traditional ABC techniques. Managers can easily update their time-driven ABC models to reflect changes in operating conditions.

What is an Activity Cost Driver?

The second factor that can cause a change in the activity cost-driver rate is a shift in the efficiency of the activity. Quality programs, continuous improvement efforts, reengineering, or the introduction of new technology can enable the same activity to be done in less time or with fewer resources. When permanent, sustainable improvements in a process have been made, the ABC analyst recalculates the unit time estimates (and therefore the demands on resources) to reflect the process improvements.

Activity Cost Driver

In some cases, the end product may not be a finished good but simply an intermediary good that moves to the next activity. Either way, the charge-based activity cost driver applies the costs all at one time. Over the past 15 years, activity-based costing has enabled managers to see that not all revenue is good revenue and not all customers are profitable customers. Unfortunately, the difficulties of implementing and maintaining traditional ABC systems have prevented them from being adopted on any significant scale. Time-driven ABC has overcome these difficulties, offering a transparent, scalable methodology that is easy to implement and update. It draws on existing databases to incorporate specific features for particular orders, processes, suppliers, and customers.

Example of an Activity Cost Driver

To allow for the significant variation in resources required by the different shipping arrangements, new activities must be added to the model, thereby expanding its complexity. There may be more than one activity cost driver that initiates the incurrence of a variable expense. So far, we have relied on an important simplifying assumption that all orders or transactions of a particular type are the same and require the same amount of time to process.

  • Notice how the total overhead for the month of January is the same at $200,000 but the amount allocated to each product is different.
  • If rent is $1,000 per month, the total rent allocated to item B would be $900 (and $100 to item A).
  • By using the activity cost driver (labor hours), XYZ Manufacturing can allocate its assembly cost more accurately to each product, helping the company make better decisions about pricing, resource allocation, and process improvements.
  • Imagine that the previously mentioned manufacturing plant produced two items with the exact same price and sales volume.

In these situations, the manager would calculate the resource cost per unit based on the appropriate capacity measure, such as cost per cubic meter or cost per megabyte. Imagine that McDonald’s needs to clean their ice cream machine after every 200 ice cream cones sold. In this instance, the cost driver would be the number of ice cream cones produced. For example, if management receives a sales order for a certain number of units, they can pinpoint exactly how much it is going to cost to fulfill that order.


Suppose a company has 150 activities in its enterprise ABC model, applies the costs in these activities to some 600,000 cost objects (products and customers), and runs the model monthly for two years. That would require data estimates, calculations, and storage for more than 2 billion items. An https://kelleysbookkeeping.com/accrued-revenues/ refers to actions that cause variable costs to increase or decrease for a business. Therefore, identifying what product/service is causing particular costs can help the business to become more profitable by better understanding the specific activities that are driving the costs.

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Activity-based costing is no longer a complex, expensive financial-systems implementation; the time-driven ABC innovation provides managers with meaningful cost and profitability information, quickly and inexpensively. An example of an activity cost driver in a manufacturing plant is the number of orders that must be produced. Everyday thousands of cars are ordered into the production line by management. Each department from painting to assembly has a set amount of cars that must be completed each day. The correct allocation of manufacturing overhead is important to determine the true cost of a product. Internal management uses the cost of a product to determine the prices of the products they produce.

Estimating the unit times of activities.

Overhead costs include indirect materials, equipment depreciation, nonproduction salaries, and similar costs. In most cases, the cost accounting system places the total cost for each of these items into one large pool. At the end of the production process, managerial accountants use the cost driver to allocate the overhead costs on a per-unit basis. This process is often quite technical and requires some detail to complete properly. To find the overhead cost applied to each product we then multiply the actual cost driver activity level by the application rate.

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